EP 33: Elad Gil's secrets to long term relevance, finding the smartest founders, fundraising in 2023, AI market map, nuclear energy and more

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This week on The Aarthi and Sriram Show we talk to a long time friend and repeat guest Elad Gil, Silicon Valley. Elad has been a fixture of the Silicon Valley scene for over 15 years and has seen multiple generations of startups come and go – and has invested in several iconic companies including Airbnb, Airtable, Coinbase, Figma, Flexport, Gitlab, Instacart, Notion, Pinterest to name a few.

In this episode, we wanted to get to the “real” Elad – how to be relevant for so long tech, effect of COVID on fundraising, judging a founder’s desperation, lay-offs, the future of FAANG (or MAMAA), AI, nuclear energy, human capital, and more!

Notable Quotes: 

  1. “Airbnb was one of the first probably two or three companies I invested in.”

  2. “I care more about the product market than the team for companies.”

  3. “I’ve seen people who are quite mediocre and not very good actually in terms of execution or product do great because they just happened to be in the right market.”

  4. “In the absence of an infinite capital environment, you need desperation to drive you; that’s why you don’t see a VP at Facebook starting a company because there’s no desperation.”

  5. “I think there are occasionally rare founders who really view something as their life’s mission.”

  6. “There’s real value to being disingenuous as a founder because VCs won’t back you if you say, ‘If it’s a quick exit I’m fine with it.’”

  7. “Unfortunately, what happened during COVID was that money was so abundant, valuations kept going higher, the timeline compressed, and everybody got a free round or two.”

  8. “If you have $1M in revenue and 100 people, maybe you should cut your team down to 25 people.”

  9.  “Desperation drives hard acts”

  10. “Google, or I guess, now Alphabet went from 110,000 to 190,000 people over two years. Then it laid off 6%, which is nothing.”

  11.  “Twitter ended up with reducing the company by 75%, and the shipping velocity has gone up.”

  12. “I don’t know what specific path I’m going to take over time.”

  13. “All the companies in the dotcom era were laying people off and Google sucked up all the great people. That’s why they did so many amazing things”

  14. “I invested in AI for about a decade, and nothing worked. All the value in the AI ecosystem went to incumbents.”

  15. “Young people don’t want to be truck drivers. There’s going to be a huge hole in terms of labor markets. So, having self-driving technology is going to be a net positive.”

  16. “If you actually look at the history of nuclear energy, in the mid-1970s oil lobby plus the green movement tried to shut it down. They were very effective in creating this perception that it’s dirty and that it’s dangerous.”

  17. “More people per year are likely to be dying, falling off of roofs, and installing solar than from nuclear accidents.”

  18. “There’s an agenda to shut down nuclear capacity. You look at some countries like France, 70% of their energy production is still nuclear.”

  19. “I don’t know if the right is pro-nuclear. But the left is definitely anti-nuclear.”

  20. “If you look at the history of the environmental lobby, it’s traditionally been very anti-technology and anti-growth, and anti-abundance.”

  21. “If you really care about the climate and the environment, you should set up a bunch of nuclear power plants.”

  22. “Every major movement is started by a small number of young people.”


  1. Color Genomics

  2. Mixer Labs gets acquired by Twitter

  3. High Growth Handbook, book by Elad Gil 

  4. Tom Bombadil from Lord of Rings

  5. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Tim Cook

  6. Mark Zuckerberg almost selling facebook to Yahoo

  7. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

  8. FAANG companies

  9. Stewart Butterfield on adapting with COVID

  10.  R.I.P Good Times by Sequoia

  11. Arthur Rock investing in Apple, Intel

  12. Diplomacy and AI, by Noam Brown

  13. Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, Lensa

  14. Noam Shazeer on The Aarthi and Sriram Show

  15. LaMDA, Google chatbot

  16. Imagen: text-to-image diffusion models

  17. ChatGPT by OpenAI

  18. Githut CoPilot: AI pair programmer

  19. 70% of France’s energy comes from nuclear

  20. Helion: first to fusion

  21. Emmet Penney: Nuclear Barbarian

In this episode, we cover:

[06:22] How to be relevant in Silicon Valley

[08:44] Elad’s first investment

[10:18] What investors look for in startups

[13:33] How to judge a founder’s desperation

[17:51] Where are ex-FAANG founders today?

[20:26] Did COVID ruin fundraising?

[28:51] Advice for founder CEOs on lay-offs

[30:49] The future of FAANG

[36:51] Fundraising 101

[42:26] What to do if you’ve been laid off

[44:35] Is this a good time to start a company?

[45:09] Past, present, and future of AI

[01:05:38] Why nuclear energy?

[01:19:11] Human intellectual capital

[01:25:48] Elad’s impact on humanity